Could increased OSHA authority be on the way?

  A case winding its way through the courts could potentially increase the reach of the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which investigates Occupational Safety and Health Act violations.

In December, a federal administrative judge for the Independent Occupations Safety and Health Review Commission ruled that OSHA’s request for “enterprise-wide abatement” of alleged violations at Michigan trucking company Central Transport, LLC was worthy of exploring further at trial.

“Formal discovery has not begun. No hearings have been held. Especially in a case where a novel legal theory is advanced, the decision regarding that claim should be made upon a complete record following full discovery by all parties,” wrote Administrative Law Judge Carol Baumerich in her ruling late last year.

According to BusinessInsurance.com, company-wide abatement rulings as a result of settlements with OSHA have occurred in the past, but the timing — and nature — of OSHA’s request is notable and potentially precedent-setting should it hold up.

However, the case could take “years” to resolve, as Baumerich noted in her ruling, so immediate changes to federal policy and administration aren’t right around the corner. However, OSHA’s pursuit of this case — and its path through the courts — is certainly worth watching.

That said, the fact the case has gotten this far is interesting in and of itself.

Judge Baumerich's order is significant and precedent-setting. This is the first decision by an OSHA Administrative Law Judge expressly finding that the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission may have the authority under the OSHA Act to order abatement measures beyond the specific violations identified in the citations,” said Michael Felsen, the regional solicitor for New England, in a statement from OSHA last year.

Contact a Plexus Groupe professional to find out more about this recent ruling and other OSHA considerations by calling us at 847.307.6100, or contact us via the Web at plexusgroupe.com.

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